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Economics and the VirtuesBuilding a New Moral Foundation$
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Jennifer A. Baker and Mark D. White

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198701392

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198701392.001.0001

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Adam Smith on Virtue, Prosperity, and Justice

Adam Smith on Virtue, Prosperity, and Justice

(p.72) Chapter 4 Adam Smith on Virtue, Prosperity, and Justice
Economics and the Virtues

James R. Otteson

Oxford University Press

Adam Smith is usually considered to be a central figure in the political–economic tradition of liberalism, but recent scholars have debated whether he is an adherent to the “classical” or “progressive” versions of liberalism. This chapter outlines Smith’s conception of the origins and nature of virtue, focusing on his conception of justice in particular. After laying out his admittedly thin conception of justice, the chapter offers several “Smithian” reasons supporting it. It then considers a social-justice objection to Smith’s position, and argues that the social-justice objection does not defeat it. The chapter concludes that Smith offered a defensible and integrated conception of economics and virtue that places him in the classical liberal camp.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, virtue, sympathy, moral objectivity, utility, justice, social justice

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